LA PAZ – At least 15 people were injured in a clash between rival coca growers in Apolo, a town in La Paz province, Bolivian media reported Sunday.
The headquarters of one of the groups, which reached an agreement with President Evo Morales’s administration to grant legal status to coca growers in the area, was attacked with dynamite and stones by residents of another area who oppose the deal.
Members of the rival groups then fought with sticks and tools, officials said.
“Apolo is divided in two,” with some residents belonging to the traditional growers’ group and others to the new group that reached the agreement with the government, Provincial Coca Leaf Growers Association secretary Gregorio Cari told the La Paz daily La Prensa.
German Loza, who is the deputy minister for coca affairs, is to blame for the problems in the area, Cari said.
Coca plantations are legal in Apolo, located about 180 kilometers (112 miles) northeast of La Paz, but the Morales administration wants to regulate them.
Morales is a leader of seven coca growers’ unions in neighboring Cochabamba province.
Bolivia allows the cultivation of coca, the raw material for cocaine, in small quantities for use in teas, folk remedies and Andean religious rites.
Since time immemorial, Andean peasants have chewed coca – a mild stimulant in its unadulterated form – to ward off hunger pangs and cope with the affects of altitude sickness.